PODCAST: Bring Back Vanilla Sex

by | Jan 26, 2023 | Podcasts, Sexual Intimacy | 31 comments

Bring Back VAnilla Sex podcast
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What’s Wrong with Vanilla Sex?

Valentine’s Day is coming up just around the corner, and that means that we’re going to start to see lots and lots of articles about how to have hot sex. 

They will be on magazines. They will be in Christian media. How can you have the hottest sex this Valentine’s Day?

So we thought, before you were inundated by all of that, we could revisit what actually makes a super satisfying sex life, looking at what the research says.

And we could ask, “have we got things backwards?”

So that’s what we do today! Plus Keith joins in to look at how we can marginalize single people at Valentine’s Day (and throughout the year) in churches, too.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Getting back to ‘Vanilla Sex’
2:10 Explaining context for our topic
5:55 The problems with the ‘spice it up!’ message
16:10 The research on female orgasm
27:00 How we view marriage affects this
34:50 Research on orgasm within relationships
40:20 Keith joins to discuss how the church treats singles
49:20 Ending with a new Great Sex Rescue review

Can We Bring Back Vanilla Sex?

Rebecca and I talk about how we sometimes put the cart before the horse–thinking that the way to spice up a marriage is to get kinkier, rather than realizing that adventurousness actually flows from a safe, intimate relationship.

We go into the gendered pressure that is often put on women to be hot enough so he doesn’t watch porn; the emphasis on spicing things up so he’s satisfied rather than making sure she feels good; and the shame we may feel if we just kind of like, well, vanilla stuff!

And we also talked about how trying new positions and doing new things is awesome and wonderful, if it flows from a place of health and connection, rather than a place of pressure.

Plus we shared some new research, too!

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Do we marginalize single people in church?

(Hint: the answer is yes!)

A woman wrote in with this comment, and Keith and I decided today was a good day to tackle it, since so many churches will be turning to “couple” messages for Valentine’s Day:

I’m a young widow in my 40s with several children at home. My beloved, amazing, kind, and all things good husband passed away several years ago. Since then I’ve felt completely and totally abandoned at church. I do have a Bible study group of women that I meet with, but that’s where it ends. The only people who sit by me occasionally are a single mom and older widow friend. I fit into zero groups offered at the church. When I walk the halls, no one makes eye contact with me, and men literally look away as if talking to me as a now “single” woman is somehow inherently wrong. One man in particular knew my husband well and if I try to speak to him if he and his wife are sitting nearby, the awkwardness from him is palpable, and I think it’s because his wife feels awkward when I speak to him in her presence. Any invites have stopped from couple friends. My scarlet letter is now a W and I don’t know what I should do. I really think it’s the thwarted view of women that has landed me in this place.

I realize you focus on marriage/sex/and the roles of men and women and how the Evangelical church in general has distorted those. But I believe this issue fits right alongside your teachings and I’m coming up empty-handed on where to turn. The single mom friend mentioned above and I are talking about forming our own small group, but I think that’s just a bandaid and there’s a far greater issue at heart here.

I’m struggling here as I did not feel demeaned as a woman at my church until my husband died. Maybe I’m wrong to assume this treatment is because I’m a younger(ish) woman. My heart tells me I’m correct and that what I read about in your messages correlates to what I’m feeling.

Do we see single women in our church as threats to our marriage? (that’s so wrong!). Do we include single people in our small groups/get-togethers? Or are they invisible?

It’s a good question for all of us to ask, and I hope some single people chime in to say what they’ve encountered in church!

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Podcast bring back vanilla sex

Do you feel pressure to spice things up to be a good wife? To help your husband not watch porn? Or do you wish things were spicier? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.   I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage.  And I do that in a very weird way with my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach, who is joining us.

Rebecca: Hopefully, the only weird way is that it’s with your daughter versus doing it in a weird way with your daughter.  There’s a misplaced modifier.

Sheila: That’s very, very true.  So Rebecca and I talk sex all the day.  We just don’t get personal.  We talk about what the research says.  We talk about what our surveys have said.  And Rebecca, of course, is my coauthor on The Great Sex Rescue, which is still—let me put a plug in here.  It’s under $2.99 for the eBook until January 31st.  So if you have not picked it up yet, now is a great time to get it on eBook form.  If you’ve listened to my voice on audio, if you have got the paperback version, the eBook lets you search for stuff.  And it’s super fun, and it’s really cheap.  So go get that now.  Yeah.  That’s up on January 31st.  It is not quite January 31st yet.  But nevertheless, February is just around the corner.

Rebecca: That’s right.

Sheila: And with February comes—

Rebecca: Valentine’s Day.  Yay.

Sheila: Valentine’s Day.  And so you all are about to get inundated by all of the let’s make Valentine’s Day hot posts.  Not necessarily on our blog.  I don’t think we’re talking about that.  We’re talking about kissing, I think, in February which is important.  But you’re going to see that on Cosmo.  You’re going to see that on all the magazines in the grocery store.  You’re going to see it in your news feeds on social media.  It’s like how to make this a super-hot Valentine’s Day, how to spice things up, how to get your freak on, all of that.  And we just thought that before you are inundated by all of that it might be time to talk about bringing back vanilla sex.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: Maybe vanilla sex gets a really bad rap.  And so we want to go into why vanilla sex can be awesome.  But before we do that, a big caveat.  We’re not saying that spicing things up is bad.

Rebecca: No.  Not at all.  I think that we need to differentiate. The main thing we want to talk about in this bringing back vanilla sex podcast is about when spicing it up can be a band-aid that covers bigger issues, right? 

Sheila: Yeah.    

Rebecca: And so let’s talk about when it is good first, so that we can understand the healthy jumping off point as we’re talking about this.  If you are in a relationship where you’re just kind of experiencing a lot of freedom because you feel really safe and loved and you just really like sex, and you’re like, “Let’s try all the new things,” just go for it.  Have fun.  Power to you.  That’s the kind of situation where spicing it up is naturally flowing from a healthy relationship.  It’s more of a natural expression of the intimacy and vulnerability and safety that’s already there.  

Sheila: Right.  Exactly.

Rebecca: So yeah.  Those kinds of situations.  If you’re coming out of purity culture and you’ve been so stressed about whether or not things are okay and you’re finally experiencing freedom and you’re like, “I want to spice everything up.  I want to try all the spices.  I want to try the ghost peppers of sex.  I want to try the jalapenos of sex.  I want to try all of the different spices,” right?  You have fun.  You go have your heyday.  You have the spiciest Valentine’s Day you can ever imagine.  You go for it.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And just a little bit of a plug here, in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, which are the books that we wrote especially for people who are about to get married or when you’re in your early years of marriage—how do we build a healthy sex life from the ground up?  We do have five keys on how to decide how to spice things up.  And I’ll just share those really quick.  First of all, what Rebecca just said, there is freedom in the Christian marriage.  All right.  The Bible does not say that you can’t have oral sex.  The Bible does not say that you can’t—okay.  You can have fun.  Number two, however, is that we should not do things that are our spouse is uncomfortable with.  So even though there’s freedom, you don’t break trust over it.  You don’t pressure them to do something that you don’t want to do.  It has to be freely entered into.  It needs to be about just the two of you.  Okay?  So no extra people in it.  No porn in it.  No fantasizing about the whole football team or something.  Okay.  It’s just going to be the two of you.  And then just a bit of a warning, if you need to degrade or humiliate someone in order to get aroused, that’s a red flag too.  

Rebecca: Yes.  Requiring the harm of degradation of another person in order for you to have an orgasm or enjoy sex is not healthy.  And we’re very okay saying you probably need to really work out the root of that and why you’re experiencing that because using someone as an object of pain or of—yeah.  Just degradation.  That’s just not whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is —that verse.  Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.

Sheila: Yes.  Exactly.  And then the final one is, is this something which is enhancing our intimacy?  Or is this something which is detracting from our intimacy?  So do we feel closer afterwards, or do we not?  Just five quick points.  And if you want to explore some of those answers a little bit more carefully, do check out The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex because we’ve got it all there.    

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because we just wanted to start this conversation by explaining when we’re like listen.  We’re not saying don’t spice it up.  We’re not saying if you want to spice it up there’s something wrong.  We’re not saying any of that.  We wanted to give the context of when spicing it up is a healthy and normal, natural thing to do.  And really what it comes down to is play and fun and variety and excitement should be a natural outcropping of the relationship that already exists.

Sheila: Exactly.  And I want you to say that again because this is really our key point.

Rebecca: Exactly.  I’ll try to do it word for word, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to.  Play and fun and excitement and variety should be natural outcroppings of the relationship that already exists.  What we see so often in the advice, especially in Christian circles, about spicing it up or about increasing your variety during sex is, “So your marriage is dull.  So your relationship has lost its spark.  So you’re feeling resentment and bitterness towards each other, so you can’t communicate anymore.  Why not try to spice things up in the bedroom?”  And that is not the same thing as, “Hey, we just really like sex.  And we’re in a bit of a specifically sexual rut, and we want to bring play back.”  That’s not the same thing as your relationship isn’t where you want it to be, so you should go to the bedroom.  And the reason I have a really, really hard time with this messaging is it’s the exact opposite of what we tell people before they are married.

Sheila: I know.  I find this so ironic.  Because before people are married, what do we tell them?

Rebecca: We tell them, “Don’t have sex because you can create false intimacy.”  If you have sex before you have the emotional commitment, the safety, the vulnerability, and before you’re really, truly connected, you can cause false intimacy that makes you look over—gloss over their other red flags.  And so you don’t ever actually deal with the root problem.  You just have more great sex.  And then what happens when you get married?  You have root problems.  Ignore those.  Just get freaky.  It literally flips.  The advice is literally the opposite, right?  What do we hear before you’re married?  Make sure that you communicate so that you have really good connection so that when you get married your sex life is great.  What do we hear once you’re married?  Have sex so that he’ll communicate.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  

Rebecca: Right?  So we flip all of it.

Sheila: As if sex is going to fix everything.  I think this is the essential problem is that we have put the cart before the horse.  There’s a chicken and egg thing, right?  What leads to what?  And those of you who are familiar with studies will know there’s always an issue—or it can be really tricky to figure out what is correlation and what is causation.  We had this issue with Great Sex Rescue too because you know what?  High marital satisfaction and high sexual satisfaction tended to go hand in hand.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: So is there one that causes the other?  Or do they both just move in the same way?  And through our focus groups and through looking at some other studies, what we found—and we talk about this in The Great Sex Rescue—is that high marital satisfaction really does lead, quite often, to high sexual satisfaction.  But high sexual satisfaction cannot create high marital satisfaction.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Very unlikely to be (cross talk).

Sheila: It’s very unlikely.  Yeah.  So it’s like this cannot create a great marriage.  And often, if we are saying that the way that you get a great marriage is in the bedroom by doing all kinds of freaky things and making sure that your spouse is satisfied, you’re actually giving the opposite advice.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And that’s exactly the problem is what we do when we say those things is we tell people, in essence, you’re just aiming to have enough of an oxytocin boost that you manage not to get divorced until the next orgasm.  That’s, in essence, how it sounds, right?  This is the goal.  Because if the goal was to actually have good marriages, the advice to a woman who is feeling like she is unheard and unseen and is feeling resentful and bitter towards her husband is not to say, “Well, have you tried a new position?  Or have you tried role play?”  Right?  That’s not the answer.  The answer is to say, “Well, why do you feel unseen?  Why do you feel these things?”  But so many of these books, the mentality—so many of these messages, the mentality, is, “You know, you just need to try something new, and then maybe your sex life will get better.”  But if he’s never given her a reason to want to try something new and expect it to feel good, why would she?

Sheila: And we’re using a little bit gendered language here, okay?  Because we know that there are a lot of women who would really like to spice things up, and their husbands are the ones who don’t want to.  And, again, those five principles apply.  Do not break trust over it.  And the more you work on your marriage the more likely that your spouse will want to play.  And so those—that’s important for this conversation.  But what we have found is that the emphasis on spicing things up is often given to women.  And it’s often forgotten that it is women who are far more vulnerable in these situations.  When we’re talking about spicing things up, we’re often talking about positions that are more likely to hurt her.  They don’t need to, and they shouldn’t.  But there’s a great likelihood of it.

Rebecca: But even with the percentage—  

Sheila: They’re more likely to be uncomfortable with it.  Or it’s just really—it can be something which is kind of degrading or humiliating to her.

Rebecca: Well, and also with the percentage—the average relationship—I mean it’s changing because more and more women are watching pornography.  But the average relationship, he’s going to be the one who has a history of pornography, and she is less likely to.  And so what happens in those marriage where she’s like, “But does want to spice this up this way because he wants me to act out what he’s seen?”  What happens to the women who are currently married to people who are trying to get them to act out their pornographic fantasies rather than trying to actually connect with them as a human being.  These are the—the burden is so much higher on women because of how our society and our churches operate.  And so that’s why we’re talking about it in a gendered way.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And the other thing, of course, which we’ve talked about a lot is the orgasm gap.  We’re talking about spicing things up, right?  And we get this all the time.  “You know what?  He wants different positions.  You got to try different positions.  Make sure that you do all of these things,” and whatever it might be.  We’re not going to give specifics.  You can think of it yourself whether it’s role play or whatever, right?  But in more than half of marriages, she is not reaching orgasm every time. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  She is not consistently reaching orgasm.  No.  She can’t go into it thinking, “Yeah.  This is going to feel good.”  She might go into it thinking, “I hope this feels good.”  Or she might—if she’s one of the 12% of women that goes into it thinking, “This will not feel good because it has never felt good,” right?

Sheila: Yeah.  And yet, we’re not telling men, “You need to give your wife an orgasm.”  We’re telling women, “You need to spice things up if you’re going to keep him happy.”  

Rebecca: And what I find so funny is you hear a lot of these books that do talk about how, “Husbands, your wife is created to enjoy sex as well.”  There’s lots of books that give husbands a lot of advice on how to help their wives have an orgasm, how to help them have a good time, all that stuff.  But the overarching message of the book is still, “Wives, you’re not going to want to do this.  And so you got to sacrifice.  You got to sacrifice.”  I’m going to be very honest.  Studies have shown that if a woman enjoys sex and is orgasmic it’s very unlikely that if the relationship is good and equal and fair that she will have to be coerced into sex.  There is no reason that a woman who is having good sex would not want to have sex unless there is a reason that you should be dealing with.  It’s the way of it.  But when we talk about all this spicing up in this context of, “You should spice it up because your husband needs you to or because you are his only sexual outlet because he has needs that only can meet,” all this kind of stuff, I just look at it.  And I’m picturing all the stuff that women already have to do in these books and all the women who are already having sex two to three times a week who are not orgasming, whose husbands are not able to—who are not willing to take the time to learn how their wives’ bodies work.  These women who are statistically likely to carry at least 70% of the mental load according to some studies.  These women who are already overburdened and overworked, and they’re told, “You’re still not enough.  This Valentine’s Day you’re not enough,” because these are not the relationships where it’s naturally coming out of a place of play and fun and levity that’s there because both of them have worked to create a wonderful, equal partnership.  These are women who are reading these blogs because they’re desperate to do something to fix their marriage.  And what they’re being told is you’re still not enough.  And that just bothers me.  My question when I look at all this stuff about spicing it up is—and, again, I have no problem with people spicing it up when it comes from a natural place in their relationship.  I think it’s really good.  Have fun.  But the question is for the women who are on these websites looking for help because she wants her marriage to get fixed, where there’s something wrong, when does she get to be told, “Maybe you’re doing enough”?

Sheila: Yeah.  “Maybe you’re enough.”

Rebecca: Maybe you’re enough.  When does she get to be told, “Listen.  If your husband has 100% of the orgasms in your relationship, he does not get to talk about sex”?  

Sheila: Yes.  Exactly.  

Rebecca: He doesn’t get to have an opinion on this.

Sheila: Because there’s bare minimum standard and then there’s preferences.  You’re not allowed to talk about preferences until you’ve met the bare minimum standards.  Until she is regularly orgasming, you’re not allowed to talk about frequency.  You’re not allowed to talk about spicing things up.  We got to get the bare minimum here.  And I think what bothers me is that so often it is actually very coercive language used towards women.  I did an Instagram Live that I will link to about the coercive language that was in Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta’s book, Married Sex, with regards to taking boudoir photos and nude photos.  And that book basically pressured women to send nude photos—

Rebecca: That didn’t basically.  It did not basically.  It flat out pressured women to send nude photos to their husbands.  It gives the impression that—

Sheila: And here’s the reason.  Because then neurologically, he will be focused on your nude body instead of other people’s nude bodies.  So if I don’t want my husband to watch porn—

Rebecca: I have to be spicier.

Sheila: – I need to be spicier.  I need to send him nude photos which we all know can be very dangerous.  And revenge porn is a thing.  Okay?  So I will link to that Instagram Live so that you can read more.  I also wrote a post about it.  It is really concerning, and we should not have Christian books coercing women into dangerous behavior.  But we do.  And the reason is so that he won’t want porn.  You need to get your freak on.  You need to be super hot so that you can keep your man.

Rebecca: He doesn’t hurt you.  So that he doesn’t hurt you.

Sheila: So that he doesn’t hurt you.  So that you can keep your man.  And this is wrong.  It’s just the focus is so backwards.  Interestingly, let me give you an insight into what Rebecca had to deal with.  When we were writing Great Sex Rescue and when we wrote The Orgasm Course, she spent hours and hours and hours poring over peer-reviewed research into everything that went into female orgasm.  So she was looking at all of these—

Rebecca: Oh my word.

Sheila: – papers on female orgasm.  And some of them were pretty—the experiments they did— 

Rebecca: I will just say there were some that were very clearly designed by men.  I’m just going to say.  There were some that were very clearly designed by people who do not have female anatomy because if they think that’s what a female orgasm works like—oh goodness.  It was bad.

Sheila: But when you look at what goes into a female orgasm, there are several things that are highly correlated with it that are not super spicy.   

Rebecca: Yes.  There are so many.  The number one that I saw across multiple studies including the largest one that I found on the determinants of orgasm was just communicating during sex.  

Sheila: Yeah.  To be able to speak up.

Rebecca: Not only being able to speak up but having a partner who listens.  So you speak up during sex and what you say actually changes what your partner does because there’s lots of women who can speak up.  And then their partner gets huffy and puffy and leaves, right?  Or who just keeps going and is like, “You’re mean to me.”  It’s like, “Well, you weren’t touching it.”  And then there’s the other side where there’s a lot of—the relational quality is huge in every single study that I found pretty much.  There wasn’t one that found that if you are in a bad relationship it didn’t have an effect on a woman’s sex drive or sex enjoyment.  Right?  Another big one that we found was just kissing.  Closeness.  The relationships where kissing was involved during sex or during the lead up or whatever you tended to have more enjoyable sex for her.  Why? Because you’re emotionally connected.  The kinds of couples—yeah.

Sheila: In February, we will spend the month talking about kissing because it really is super important.  

Rebecca: But the other things that had to go into female orgasm were also things like oral sex and manual stimulation more than just missionary PIV, in essence, right?  Now I also know that there are probably some people listening who—maybe you’re the guy.  And you’re like, “Well, that’s what I mean when I say I want to spice it up.  I want to try the things that might actually get her to orgasm.”  And we totally are there with you.  That’s what The Orgasm Course is for.  We did make a whole course on that on both—there’s a section for husbands.  And there’s a really big mega course for the woman, who is trying to figure out orgasm.  But a lot of this spicing it up language is not actually about her pleasure.  It’s about her performing for him.  

Sheila: Yep.  And I do want to say this too because I do talk to a lot of guys who they do say, “The only thing my wife will do is missionary position.”  And we know.  We know from our survey that the majority of women who reach orgasm cannot do it through intercourse alone, that oral sex or manual stimulation are much more reliable routes to orgasm.  And so I technically—I don’t actually consider that spicing things up.

Rebecca: Well, no.

Sheila: That should be normal sexual play.  But yes.  Because for so many women, that is necessary.

Rebecca: It is.  But that’s where I think we need to recognize that a lot of the language around spicing it up is not about making things good for her.  It’s about increasing the excitement and the newness and the novelty so that he doesn’t feel like his needs are unmet.  It’s so that he can have fun, and they don’t question whether or not the reason sex feels not fun is because he doesn’t have an enthusiastic partner.  Because that’s one of the things that I see all the time where it’s like, “Well, I just want her to enjoy herself,” it’s like, “Well, then,” —I just—I know that there are so many people out there for whom the woman has a lot of these negative messages in her mind, right?  This is literally what The Great Sex Rescue is about.  Okay?  You have so many negative messages in your head, and you just can’t get over them.  And it’s just this barrier.  And if it is you, please do buy The Great Sex Rescue.  Please read it.  It really was written to set you free.  It really was written to rescue sex.  But for a lot of people who we’ve heard about in our focus groups, who email us, who comment, who we hear their stories, a lot of it is, “I really want her to enjoy herself.  But I’m willing to have sex if she doesn’t.”  And then it’s often those guys who want to try to spice things up to make it good for her.  And I just think if instead of focusing on spicing it up, we just got back to what does good sex look like, and we recognize that it looks quite vanilla a lot of the time.  If we’re calling good sex something that brings both partners to orgasm, it can look pretty vanilla.  But it’s good.

Sheila: Yep.  A lot of women find orgasm through intercourse difficult.  We’ve already talked about this.  But some women have figured out there’s one particular position where, “I tend to be able to get there, or I can tilt my hips enough that the clitoris gets stimulation during thrusting,” whatever it might be.  A lot of women find women on top more reliable.  Some women find missionary position more reliable.  Doesn’t matter which one it is for you.  Whatever it might be.  But often, women will find one particular position that works.  And so that’s kind of like your old faithful.  And so the idea of trying a whole bunch of other positions, it’s like, “Well, then I won’t orgasm.”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s like what’s the purpose then, right?  If you know that it can be good in a quote unquote vanilla way, right?  Because it’s just the same thing you’ve done over and over and over again.  But you know that it’s probably not going to be good for her in a way that you want to try it just feels like the emphasis is on the wrong place because it puts the emphasis on her being a performer for him versus it being something that is good for both of them.

Sheila: Yeah.  Now, of course, if you want to try new positions, you can always just do that as foreplay and then go back to old faithful for the majority of it.  I’m not saying don’t do that.  I’m just saying if there is one particular thing that works for her and you always come back to that particular thing that doesn’t mean you failed.  That doesn’t mean your sex life isn’t hot.  That just simply means that you’re prioritizing her pleasure.  If your relationship is strong and if you feel emotionally connected during sex, that sex can be totally fulfilling.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because I read a lot of these books like—I am sorry.  I know we talk about it a lot.  It’s just such a modern book, and it’s such a good example.  The book Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta.  When I was reading through it—and I’m sorry if this sounds weird.  But the message I got was have hot sex to own the atheists, right?  Where it’s like because we’re good Christians, we have to have the hottest sex imaginable.  You’re not allowed to have a normal sex life because then you’re not experiencing what God wants you to have whereas a normal sex life is perfectly fine.  God is not saying, “Hmm, have they gone up the Scoville scale this time?”  God is not watching you be like, “I don’t know.  You could have gotten a little freaky there, Tammy.”  God is not looking down being like, “You are not hot enough to prove that being a Christian made your marriage better than the atheists.”  But they have all these examples of people doing everything naked.  And a woman who is so sexually liberated and shares about her orgasms during Bible study group which I am like, “Please don’t do that.  Please do not.  Please don’t talk about your latest orgasm in your Bible study group.  Please don’t.  For the love of everything, please don’t.”  That’s so uncomfortable and so unnecessary.  And it feels very much like our sex lives, which are supposed to be this incredibly personal, private, intimate part of us—they become a performative measure of how much better we are than the world.  Right?  If the world is able to have porn, we’ve got to have something better than porn.  If the world can have one-night stands, well, then we’ve got to have that same level of excitement among Bruce and Carol, who have been married for 64 years.  Right?  Or maybe not 64 years.  I don’t know.  The world has all these crazy, kinky things.  We can’t let the world have something we don’t have, so we have to figure out how we can, not only match them, but beat them in order to be good Christian spouses.  There is an underpinning of this mentality throughout a lot of these marriage and sex resources.  And for me, it just shows that we’ve completely lost the plot on what good sex actually is because good sex does not compete with porn.  Good sex does not compete with porn.

Sheila: And we’re working actually, behind the scenes, on—we’re writing up—what we hope will become a peer reviewed paper on some of our stats about men.  And what we found is that guys who have used porn and have an entitlement mindset towards sex—so they still —they believe in the obligation sex message.  They believe that she should give him sex if he wants it.  And they think that it’s normal to struggle with lust.  That this is just how men are.  If they have those kinds of beliefs, they are far more likely to be dissatisfied with their wife’s level of adventurousness in bed and with the amount of enthusiasm that she shows in bed.  Whereas if they just simply don’t believe that all men have to struggle with lust, if they don’t watch porn, you know what happens?  They are much more satisfied with their wife.  They have higher marital satisfaction.  And they have more sex and better sex.  It’s not like if you don’t believe that all men struggle with lust it means that, “Oh, I guess you’re just an effeminate man, and you never want sex.”  No.  These guys actually do really well.  The safe guys do well.  And they’re satisfied.  It’s the guys who are—who still have a pornified mindset whether or not they’re watching porn—

Rebecca: Even if they’re not watching porn. 

Sheila: – even if they’re not watching porn, they are the ones who are more likely to pressure their wives to become more adventurous to spice things up instead of saying, “How can—through sex, how can I show you how much I value you and love you?  And how can we just have fun and have an amazing time?”  They’re saying, “No.  I deserve to be really hot right now.  I deserve to have this really hot experience.”  Sex is something which should be mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both.  We’ve been talking a lot about intimacy today and how to make that the foundation of your sex life.  But if you’ve had trouble experiencing sex as pleasurable, please check out our Orgasm course.  It helps women who have always had this roadblock, and you just want to figure out what all the fuss is about.  You are not broken.  And if you want to figure out how to orgasm through intercourse or make that more likely, we’ve got some tips on that too.  So check out The Orgasm course.  There’s a link in the podcast notes.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And this dichotomy between sexual entitlement versus just sexual gratitude, frankly, really comes down to just how we view marriage as a whole.  If you picture a couple who are getting married because you’re just—picture a person who is just walking down a road.  Okay.  Your life is just walking down a road.  And if you see marriage as just figuring out who you’re walking side by side with—like I’m going this way no matter what.  We are doing our thing.  We’re going to have to do housework.  We’re going to have to get jobs.  We’re going to have family issues.  We’re going to have stuff, and I want to do it with you.  Then that’s a very heavily partner focus.  It’s the idea of equally yoked where you’re each carrying your own thing.  And you’re working together.  And the load is lighter because of that.  Versus a gender roles idea of what marriage is where it’s like, “Well, I do X, and you do Y.”  And you know what always happens with gender roles with marriage?  It always ends up that her job is to fulfill his sexual urges.

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: Right?  Her job is to make sure that he doesn’t ever go without what he wants sexually.  Then what happens.  You’re not just in this together.  You’re not shoulder to shoulder bearing the load and working together.  You’re looking at each other to see what they’re not doing, right?  So the husband looks at his wife and is like, “Yeah.  But I want this, and you’re not doing it.  And so therefore, you are failing me.”  And they might not explicitly think that.

Sheila: Or it could be the opposite way around.  Again, it could be the opposite way around where the wife is the one who is doing that.  But yeah.

Rebecca: Exactly.  But this is what we often see is that this is why wives are so pressured into being super, super hot is because we think that women’s job in marriage is to be your personal porn star so that you don’t actually turn to porn.  

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: Versus seeing your wife as just your helper and helper not in a subordinate role but as the same way as, again, an equally yoked ox.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  It comes down to how you talk about sex.  When we say things like, “I need more sex.  Or how do I get more sex?  Or how do I have hot sex,” it’s like sex is something that is outside of you that you take.  So it’s a commodity.  If instead we see sex as something that we share—it’s an experience that we share.  That’s a very different focus.  So think back with me.  If you remember—I don’t want to say that.  Think back with me.  Over and over again on the podcast, I have said that the three things that the Bible talks about with regards to sex is that it should be intimate, mutual, and pleasurable for both.  Okay.  Intimate, mutual, pleasurable for—and you can add more.  That’s just my short form.  It should also be pure.  It should also be all kinds of other things.  But it should be intimate, mutual, and pleasurable for both.  When we talk about intimacy, what we mean is this deep knowing that is talked about in Genesis 4.  Adam knew his wife, Eve.  So there’s this deep knowing, this deep longing to be connected.  And that means that when you come to the bedroom or wherever you are—the living room couch, whatever, wherever you’re having sex, okay?  But when you come to that sexual relationship, you’re coming with everything you are.  That’s what intimacy means.  And there has to be a foundation of trust for that.  Because if you’re going to come with everything you are, it means you have to be able to be vulnerable.  You have to be able to open up.  You have to be able to say this is who I really am.  This is what I want.  This is how much I love you.  This is what I’m thinking.  And that has to be something which is a part of your sex life.  And as you are more vulnerable, it’s actually quite natural for people to want to try new things because it becomes play, right?  Because when you’re vulnerable, when you’re able to let all—your guard down, you can actually play.  Sex becomes way less serious.  And that’s really key.  But here is the problem.  Often, couples aren’t vulnerable with each other.  There might be emotional problems like there’s just a lack of connection.  Often, it’s because one or both of you feel very uncomfortable sharing what you’re feeling.  You may not even be able to identify what you’re feeling.  Men, especially in our society, are not taught how to identify their feelings.  So you’re allowed to have three feelings.  You’re allowed to be angry, happy, or horny.  Right.  And so no matter what you’re feeling, you go to one of those three things.  So if you’re feeling insecure or bored, you go to horny to satisfy that insecurity or boredom.  And so there you are trying to have sex, and there’s not real emotional vulnerability.  And so what do we do?  We substitute being hotter and hotter.  We substitute these things because we’ve lost the emotional vulnerability, which is actually what makes sex hot.

Rebecca: And so then we’re back to just doing the opposite of what we told people when they were single.  Because from what I’ve seen, a lot of places don’t actually believe that healthy intimate sexuality is even possible.  They just think that the best way to do it is just to make sure it’s only ever with one person then maybe you’ve guaranteed that it’ll be intimate and vulnerable.  But that’s not how it works.  That’s not how it works.

Sheila: And you hear this a lot in Christian circles.  “You know what?  You’re married now.  So you can do anything as long as it’s just with you.  And so have—there’s nothing that’s dirty now.”  And well, I mean—I just think that’s the wrong emphasis because it’s treating—and I’m not trying to make a judgment on adventurousness here.  But the perspective is you really want to watch porn and do all this hot stuff, but we know that’s wrong to do.  And so here is a way to do it legally.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Exactly.  The idea is the focus is still hedonism.  It’s just biblically sanctioned hedonism which does not exist, by the way.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Because it says that—it’s kind of like porn is about taking.  It’s about conquest.  It’s about getting what I need.  Intimacy is about knowing someone and giving to someone and sharing something.  They are total opposites.  And so if you want to spice things up this Valentine’s Day, that’s great.  But make sure that it’s because it’s the natural outflowing of the marriage relationship that you already have.  Make sure that your vulnerability is not based on some sex toy or some sex action but is based on your emotional connection.

Rebecca: Exactly.  Spicing it up should not be about saving a relationship that’s falling apart.  It should not be about forcing false intimacy.  It should not be about having her perform for him so that he is able to stay faithful.  None of that.  If it’s about anything other than just having fun with your best friend—

Sheila: Yeah.  Because connection is the aphrodisiac.  It’s not swinging from the chandeliers.  

Rebecca: That’s exactly what Emily Nagoski says too.   

Sheila: In Come As You Are.  Yeah.  

Rebecca: For people who don’t know, Come As You Are—a big thing that she keeps on saying is that one of the best things about a sex life that’s healthy and good and is fulfilling and enjoyable is that you can come to each other with your sleepy hedgehogs, right?  Because what do hedgehogs do when they sleep?  They curl up into a little ball until all they are is prickles, right?  You have all these things that are there.  And you come together with your insecurities, with your—the ways you’ve miscommunicated and hurt each other and you’ve had to forgive and connect again.  And you go to your best friend, and you know that they will choose you again and again and again.  It’s not because you’re having to measure up to something.  It’s just because you have someone who sees you, prickly hedgehogs and all, and says, “I want you.  I want you with the stretchmarks.  I want you with the bad hair day.  I want you when you’re cranky, and I want you when you’re happy,” because they just want you.  And that’s what intimacy is about.  And so this Valentine’s Day just bring back vanilla sex because vanilla sex is about you.  And you know what?  You’re enough.

Sheila: Amen.

Rebecca: You’re enough even if you never spice it up.  You are enough.

Sheila: Amen.  So let’s just turn really quick to a research segment of the week where we include some peer reviewed research that speak into this.  

Rebecca: Yes.  So this study was looking to see whether or not women’s orgasm rates actually look—actually changed how they saw their partner.  Okay.  So women who are having sex with a dude, if he brings her to orgasm frequently versus if he does not bring her to orgasm, does that change how she actually sees him?  Okay.  So first of all, it did.  Here’s what they said.  Women tended to rate high orgasm partners as more funny, more attractive, more creative, and more emotional warmth.  They were more faithful.  And funnily enough, they also said they smelled better.  But additionally, how the sex actually was was also very different between the high orgasm and the low orgasm groups.  Women, who had high orgasm partners—so partners who consistently brought them to orgasm—they communicated more about sexual positions, and also they got more oral sex.  So your high orgasm partners are more likely to really focus on female pleasure.  They are rated on that by their partners, by the way.  So their partners are like, “Yeah.  No.  He takes care of me.”  Okay.  Than the low orgasm—the women in lower orgasm relationships are.

Sheila: We found similar stats too.  Yeah.

Rebecca: We did as well.  Yeah.  Which makes total sense.  You know what?  Women kind of know when they get there.

Sheila: Yep.  Yep.  Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: But what this also says is the higher orgasm partners are also more likely to do a lot more adventurous things.  They’re more likely to try new things.  But averaged over all of the different sexual positions that they looked at, the high orgasm males were more likely to also be manually stimulating the woman’s clitoris.  So even when they were trying new things, he was focused on her pleasure than the low orgasm males.

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: And when I looked at the results here, what I found so funny was that the high orgasm group was just more likely to do all the things that brought women to orgasm.  And they were also more likely to have more adventurous partners.  And it’s like which one came first?  The chicken or the egg?  And you know what?  It’s easy to say things like, “Well, maybe those women were just more orgasmic.”  But the men who are—I’m sorry.  Because we hear that a lot, right?  Where it’s like, “She just couldn’t ever get there because she just wasn’t very orgasmic of a woman.”  But that doesn’t actually hold up when the stats show that there’s only one group of men who is actually doing the things that bring women to orgasm.

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: So you can’t complain that a woman is not orgasmic enough when you’re doing things and you’re not stimulating the clitoris.  Right?

Sheila: Yes.  Now, of course, these are stats.

Rebecca: These are groups.  Yes.

Sheila: These are groups.  And so there’s always your guy who would love to do all of these things, and his wife doesn’t want him to and isn’t interested in orgasm.  So we understand that there are always exceptions.  

Rebecca: But there is a level where we have to ask.

Sheila: There is a huge trend here.  

Rebecca: That’s the thing.  Is because there is a trend in order to promote truth and not get blinded by our own biases, we have to look and say okay.  So yeah.  If you’re sitting in a marriage where you’re like, “I want to try these new things, but she just doesn’t really enjoy sex,” but you’re like, “Okay.  But am I even trying to stimulate her clitoris during sex?  Or am I just like getting it done?  Am I making her pleasure a priority?  Am I being 100% faithful?  Am I making sure that she can communicate with me?  Or am I pitching a bit of a fit when she says I actually don’t like that,” because those are the things that the men with really satisfied women tend to do.  And so these are things we actually do have to ask.  But additionally, this study also found that women report different orgasm rates based on partner.  Which means it’s—you are not broken as a woman.  If you are struggling with orgasm, you are not broken.  A lot of women find it really hard to orgasm in some situations and not in others.  That means that you can grow and you can learn.  

Sheila: And as a couple, you can grow and learn.  

Rebecca: That’s what I mean.  As a couple, you—plural.  English.  We really need a y’all, right?  We need a you plural.  But you can grow, and you can learn.  And I really hope that this kind of season is when you can start to do that if that’s your case.  Because female orgasm can be more—it is definitely more difficult than the male orgasm.  But you just have to try because a lot of the studies show that if you just try it’s much more likely to happen.

Sheila: And you can get there.

Rebecca: And I know there’s a lot of people who have been trying.  We’re not talking to you.  But there’s a lot who aren’t who think they are because they’re like, “Well, I want her to orgasm.  And so therefore, I’m trying.”  You’re not trying if it’s all in your head.  You have to actually follow through.  So that’s what the research says.  High orgasm partners are more likely to be emotionally available.  They’re more likely to be faithful.  They’re more likely to be really attentive to their spouse.  They’re more likely to actually want to make this a good time for her.  And so as a result, she has a good time.  And they’re more adventurous.  And they have more fun.  And she also thinks he’s more attractive and smarter and more curious and more interesting because she’s with the kind of guy who really takes her seriously.

Sheila: Amen.

Rebecca: And so that’s what we’re talking about getting back to vanilla sex.  Focus less on chandeliers and more on just orgasm.  Connection.  Closeness.

Sheila: Absolutely.

Rebecca: That’s all.  

Sheila: I have brought my husband, Keith, on the podcast now as we finish up.

Keith: Hey, everybody.

Sheila: Now we’re going to move from vanilla sex, so I’m not going to put you on the spot about that one.

Keith: Okay.

Sheila: But I do want to talk about another pitfall that we can run into around Valentine’s Day.  This time in churches.  And it’s how we treat people that aren’t part of couples.  Single people.  And I got a letter from a woman that I want to read because I think this is really important.  I just want to say before I do that too.  I get so many notes from single people, who listen to this podcast.  And I really feel honored that so many singles feel like they can learn from this and that they are—yeah.  That they are really being blessed by it.  I know I don’t do a lot of content for singles, but I kind of feel like—I don’t know if I’m qualified.  

Keith: Yeah.

Sheila: Everybody in our team was married before the age of 22.  It’s kind of patronizing to give single people advice.  I don’t feel like that’s right for me to say.

Keith: You haven’t walked that road.  So how can you speak to those people’s experiences?  Right?

Sheila: Exactly.  So I’m hoping we’ll bring some guests on sometime that are more qualified to do this.  But this one we can speak to because this impacts how all of us treat single people at church.  So I want to read you this letter.  “I’m a young widow in my 40s with several children at home.  My beloved, amazing, kind, and all things good husband passed away several years ago.  Since then, I’ve felt completely and totally abandoned at church.  I do have a Bible study group of women that I meet with, but that’s where it ends.  The only people who sit by me occasionally are a single mom and an older widow friend.  I fit into zero groups offered at the church.  When I walk the halls, no one makes eye contact with me, and men literally look away as if talking to me, as a now single woman, is somehow inherently wrong.  One man, in particular, knew my husband and I well.  And if I try to speak to him, if he and his wife are sitting nearby, the awkwardness from him is palpable, and I think it’s because his wife feels awkward when I speak to him in her presence.  Any invites have stopped from couple friends.  My scarlet letter is now a W, and I don’t know what I should do.  I really think it’s the thwarted view of women that has landed me in this place.  I realize you focus on marriage, sex, and the roles of men and women and how the evangelical church in general has distorted those.  But I believe this issue fits right alongside your teachings, and I’m coming up empty handed on where to turn.  The single mom friend mentioned above and I are talking about forming our own small group, but I think that’s just a band aid.  And there’s a far greater issue at heart here.  I’m struggling as I did not feel demeaned as a woman at my church until my husband died.  Maybe I’m wrong to assume this treatment is because I’m a younger woman.  But my heart tells me I’m correct.  And that what I read about in your messages correlates to what I’m feeling.”  I just find that really sad.

Keith: Yeah.  Yeah.

Sheila: So here is a woman.  She’s experienced church as part of a couple and as a single woman.  And she’s seeing first hand how totally different it is because she doesn’t have a place now when she’s not part of a couple.  

Keith: Right.  And more than that, I mean people are avoiding her now that she’s single.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because she’s a threat.

Keith: Yeah.  Well, and that’s the thing is I wouldn’t have believed that—I’ll be honest.  If people said that, as a woman, men actually look away from me.  I would say, “Oh come on.  No one does that really.”  But hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women have told you that that’s what they experience.  So I’m no longer surprised.  This is just the fruit of the teachings that women are dangers, that women are going to make you impure as a man.  You need to bounce your eyes.  That kind of nonsense.  That’s the fruit of the teaching.  And this poor woman, who is a widow who the Bible says taking care of widows is one of our primary roles as Christians, gets ignored because men don’t want to be tempted to sin.  It’s crazy.

Sheila: It’s not just the men who are avoiding her.  It’s the women feel awkward because the women—her former friends feel like she’s a threat now to their marriages.  

Keith: Yeah.  Some of it may be the grief thing.  Some people sometimes don’t have a —people don’t know how to respond when you’ve lost someone.  And that can be awkward too.  But I just trust her story that she feels that it’s more of an issue of the fact that she’s a woman than the grief part of things.  And that’s something we really need to work on, right?

Sheila: Yeah.  And I think her point that invitations have stopped.  She used to get invited to people’s houses.  It made me think, “Do we do that?”  And I think we do.  If we’re going to invite people over for dinner, if we’re going to invite people for a game night, I tend to think about couples.  

Keith: Yeah.  Generally.  Yeah.

Sheila: Another couple to invite.  

Keith: We should probably try and make a concerted effort to be more inclusive.

Sheila: Yeah.  This is a really good reminder for all of us, I think, to think about the people that may not normally get invited, that often get looked over because they’re not part of a couple.  And when churches do events and they’re so geared to couples, when small groups are all about the couples—because often what churches do is they do the single small groups.  And then they do the couples small groups.  I don’t think that’s good either.  Let’s mix it up.

Keith: Or even just in general, the idea that men and women are separated in the church.  Having friendships with the opposite gender is considered odd in the church.  And it’s not in other places.  We’ve talked about in the podcast before.  My work place is predominantly female, and I have lots of female colleagues.  And there’s no weirdness or awkwardness about that.  But we’ve generated this bizarre world inside the evangelical church where having a friendship with a person of the opposite sex is seen as suspect.  And that just is crazy.  I think that’s unfortunate that we’ve done that.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so as we’re moving towards Valentine’s Day in just a couple weeks, I just want to encourage that the pastors who are listening, the small group leaders, think to yourself, “Yes.  Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and marriage.  But let’s not overlook the people who aren’t in those categories who maybe are single, who have lost, who’ve been divorced,” because they matter too.  They matter just as much.  And they probably need more help than the couples.

Keith: And I think it would be easier for them to handle—because it’s going to be a difficult time hearing all the sermons about marriage and stuff like that.  It would be an easier thing for them to handle through the rest of the year if it was more inclusive for them.  Did that make sense?

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  So I think as, on an individual level, we can make sure that we are sitting with the single people, that we are including them in our dinner invitations, our, “Hey, let’s go grab lunch after the service.”

Keith: Yeah.  And that we, as men, have not adopted this ridiculous mindset that women are only seen for—in sexual ways.  And that we can have—reach out and have friendships and be warm and welcoming to people of all types.

Sheila: Yeah.  And then I just want to say something to this particular woman and to others who are in her situation, she, especially, needs community.  She’s gone through something horrific.  And a very good friend of mine—her husband died this week.  And yeah.  I just feel really badly for her.  That’s a terrible thing to have happen especially when you’re relatively young.  And this woman here—writing this letter—is—was really young.  In her 40s when her husband died.

Keith: Dealing with kids.

Sheila: Yeah.  You’ve got kids.  You’ve got grief.  You need community.  And she’s been decades building into this church, and this church is now not here for her.  And you do not owe the church your attendance if they are not giving you community.  Now it could be there’s other issues.  Maybe the kids have a lot of friends.  There could be other things going on.  But I just want to remind people.  If you are feeling ostracized, if you are going to church and you’re treated like you’re a threat, maybe this isn’t the place for you.  And it’s okay to leave and find somewhere that’s healthier.

Keith: And if you are in a church that you feel is not welcoming to people like that, then speaking up and talking to people about how we make people feel and giving the importance that it needs to having good relationships between men and women without all this nonsensical garbage we’re always debating.

Sheila: Exactly.  So as Valentine’s Day comes up around the corner, let’s just rethink the messages that we’re sending and make sure that we’re focused on true heartfelt community and intimacy in every way.  Okay.  

Keith: Let’s be biblical.

Sheila: Let’s be biblical.

Keith: Look out for the widows in their distress.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  And those who have never been married too.

Keith: True.  True.  Yeah.

Sheila: Because I think in those days, widow basically meant someone who could not—who didn’t have anyone to support them and who were alone.  And nobody was single then really.  Everybody would have married.  So single people would fit into that.  And so people who need support need support.  And that doesn’t mean necessarily money but just—although money is an important part of that too.  But community.  Community matters.  It really does.  All right.  Well, as we are wrapping up this podcast, it is January 26th which means you have five more days until the huge eBook sale on The Great Sex Rescue is over.  So for the month of January, The Great Sex Rescue has been on for just $2.99 on eBook.  Amazon even has it lower than that.  So please go pick it up.  It’s an amazing price.  And even if you already own it in paperback or you’ve already heard the audio version, this is a chance to own another copy that you can search for and you can highlight super easily.

Keith: That’s what I was going to say as a little plug.  Sometimes I read a book, and I’m like, “What was that thing she said about this or that?”  And you can’t find it in the book.  If you have an electronic version, you can search and find the exact quote.  “Oh, that’s where it was.  Page 112,” or whatever.

Sheila: Exactly.  So pick that up.  And before we go, I am just going to read one of the most recent reviews that has come in.  One woman wrote, “This is a must read for both men and women.  I had been following one of Sheila’s social media pages when I was notified that this book was on sale.”  This is me notifying you all that this book is on sale.  “I immediately bought it.  I grew up in purity culture and heard men only want one thing.  They can’t help themselves.  Recently, I have questioned how this is perpetuated in Christian circles.  Yet, fruits of the Spirit such as self-control seems overlooked.  This book is excellent.  It clears up misinformation regarding Scripture, misinformation of word usage such as sex and intimacy, shares studies and surveys to prove points and testimonials for illustrations.  If you are a Christian, whether you’ve read other books about sex or not, this is a must read for both men and women.”  So thank you.  Go pick up The Great Sex Rescue.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of The Bare Marriage podcast.  Keep a look out for our Fixed It For You book coming February 8th and She Deserves Better coming April 18th.  And, of course, we will be back next week for an interview with Philip Paine on the Bible versus biblical womanhood.  Bye-bye.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Let's keep fixing things--with Part 2 with Philip Payne! This is an exciting week at Bare Marriage! First, our Fixed it for You book launches--30 terrible things that evangelical authors and pastors have said, "fixed" for you (including 10 brand new, never before seen...


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  1. Codec

    As a single guy I really appreciate your stuff. I get lonely and frustrated at this time of year.

    The simple truth is that there are circles communities even on the internet that will call you things like “beta” “simp” “betabux” “loser” etc if you think that you can have friendships with women.

    I also agree that the way that people talk about sex with singles is incredibly uncomfortable. You tell people to stay away from sex and that sexual thoughts will destroy you, but when you are married you are supposed to suddenly become a sexual maestro who will be so good at sex erotica will seem boring in comparison. I have a hard enough time talking to girls and I am supposed to not only keep every sexual urge under wraps, but then turn on a dime from a insecure and awkward man when dating to charisma fueled husband just seems unfair.

    Some days I would honestly prefer to just play pool or Catan with someone than the idea of waking up next to a woman I married after having sex.

    Lots of folks are lonely. Porn to me is a kind of social drug. Who needs to learn how to confront your shadow and talk to others when you can have almost any sexual fantasy you want. Why learn to process the vindictive or masochistic or praise seeking or nervous parts of yourself when you can find erotic audio. The answer is because ultimately it is better to try and become a healthier person than use porn but porn has been there for you in a sense. It knows what you are like when you are lonely and hormonal.

    I am grateful to be hear. You have never made me feel like a degenerate or a failure.

    • May

      My husband pointed out to me last night whilst reading a redit thread on the Alpha Male thing. He works in software and in software Alpha is the bug filled first release and Beta is the software with the bugs removed. Women don’t want the Alpha bug filled immature partner they want a Bata who has done the emotional work and is a fully mature adult with whom they can connect.

    • Jo R


      I (and undoubtedly many others) appreciate your honesty, transparency, and vulnerability.

      I have very little advice to offer you, aside from the things that are easy to say and often hard to do.

      Figure yourself out. Know who you are, what you like, where you’re going, who you want to spend time with—male AND female.

      If you’re struggling with porn, Sheila has often recommended Andrew J. Bauman, who has books, a FB page, and videos.

      Learn to enjoy being by yourself. That’s a pretty big part of figuring out who you are. If you can be comfortable with yourself, even if you’re alone, you will be much less likely to settle for a mediocre (or even worse) girlfriend (and male friends), saving yourself a lot of time and trouble.

      I know you are a big fan of movies and anime (and I assume other things as well). Find like-minded people, and grow friendships in those groups. While there may not be many women, there are likely to be some. (I speak as an engineering major, in a department where men outnumbered women 70 to 10 by graduation. I knew I’d marry an engineer; Mr. R, not so much. 😆 )

      In a similar vein, try new things. Bowling. Watercolor painting. A reading club. Whatever. Experiment. You may find a new hobby in a place you never imagined it, along with people who love it too.

      I would venture to say that you have a safe space right here, as well, and that we’re all cheering you on. Hugs if you want ’em.

  2. Suzanne

    Great podcast!

    Listening you talk about how some men complain they want to try these new things to help their wife get to orgasm but their wife doesn’t let them. That, to me is pretty telling about what these women have already experienced in their sex life with that man. If you have been having sex and she is not orgasming and you kept having sex she became your shell to ejaculate into. You became an unsafe person. Oral sex is extremely vulnerable thing, especially for a woman, and if they already know their husband did not care about their pleasure before, allowing them more use of your body in an even more vulnerable way is not going to be an easy thing or something she will want to try. So, men who complain she won’t let me, take a step back and find out why, I am sure there is a valid reason and your prior behavior probably has a lot to do with it.

    No one wins an award for having the kinkiest most wild sex. No one should be privy to the details of what your sex life looks like so who would know if you stick to vanilla. What matters is both husband and wife leave the experience feeling that they were both an intimate part it, no one feels used, no one feels shame. Women especially should not feel that they must be submissive to their husband, quiet and gentle all day, until its time for sex then needs to switch personas to now try to be the sexy smokin hot wife who is game for all the kink and needs to feel happy about it.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Exactly, Suzanne. And if it isn’t a hesitation because of experience with that person, perhaps it’s previous trauma or bad experiences. And if the husband, instead of proceeding gently and at his wife’s pace, still had sex with her when she wasn’t enjoying it, he simply proves to her that yes, sex is only about men, and your body is only good to be used.

  3. R

    I was single until 36 and I have been in a awful marriage to a very emotionally abusive and immature man for over a decade (it’s finally getting better now that we both have good therapists).

    Being a single adult woman trying to make connections in a suburban church was so, so, so much worse.

    Those years were such torture.

    Even with how awful he’s been, I’d absolutely get married to him or someone like him again just to not be so infantilized and ostracized and condescended toward, in what is supposed to be my true family.

  4. Mary Lou

    Addressing being single, when I took GriefShare after my husband passed away, there was a section that talked about how you now as a single woman become a threat more or less and married women do not want you around their husbands. And I found that for the most part to be true. You lose most of your married friends. Thankfully a few married women friends have still stayed connected and done activities with me. But I almost had to start from square one and find a Christian singles group to make new friends. And a lot of churches treat singles like they have leprosy. They sometimes allow a singles group up into their 20’s (single professionals) but after that, you better be married I guess. There are people over 50 (any age really) who are divorced or widowed or never married that would enjoy support through their churches to have friendships and activities together. And considering that the divorce rate is around 50% in or out of the church, there’s a possibility that up to a half of a congregation could be single. It’s discouraging.

    • Boone

      I didn’t marry until I was almost 30. I noticed some things about church from the year that I graduated HS and the year I married.
      One must first understand that one of the main jobs of the church is to control the behavior of the congregation. Children and teens are under their parents thumbs so the job’s easy. Married folks are under pressure from the community to behave. Not as easy as minors but not that difficult.
      What about singles? They’re neither fish nor fowl. They’re a category all their own and they’re dangerous. They answer to nobody. They can’t be controlled with any assurance. There’s a really good chance that they might have sex with somebody.
      During the college years they go off to school and they’re somebody else’s problem. Hopefully at school they’ll meet somebody and get married. Problem solved. What if they come back single? Everybody keeps them at arm’s length until they get with program and get married.
      If they’re divorced, we’ll give the man a break. But everybody knows a divorced woman is on the prowl. No man single or married is safe from her wanton assaults. It’s only a matter of time.
      I think that sums up the General attitude and approach toward singles in the evangelical world.

      • R

        Yes, and it’s so awful.

  5. Teresa Simmons

    Do you have any recommendations for reading material that teaches us how to prepare for sex before the act (not the act). My husbands approach doesn’t make me want to have sex. How can he approach me – woo me? How can I mentally and emotionally prepare before engaging physically?

    • Hannah

      Strongly recommend the Good Girls’ Guide to Great Sex, the Good Guys’ Guide to Great Sex for your husband, and either the Bare Marriage Boost your libido course or the Orgasm course.

      • Teresa Simmons

        Ok thank you

  6. Mara R

    Looking forward to next week’s podcast!

    This week concerning Widows, Singles, Divorcees.
    I was in an interesting category for a while.
    I was the wife of a backslidden Christian man trying to hang out with the same Christians ‘we’ used to fellowship with.
    I quit after a while. I got tired of people asking me how my husband was. (“He seems to be fine and really enjoying emotionally abusing me.” Yeah, I’m not going to say that.)

    They could not just fellowship with me on my own merit. I was the less important part of a whole.

    They always told me to go back and tell that jerk how much they missed him. I did it the first time. Never again. Cause all I got to hear was a string of profanities and insults against the Church, Christians, those Christians in particular and me in particular for still being a Christian and hanging out with them.

    It was easier to drop fellowship than to continually be reminded of how less important I was.
    It was easier to drop fellowship than to be assigned as messenger to the backslidden.

    It’s easier being divorced and going to church now than being married to a guy that used to be a pastor, praise and worship leader but has now turned his back.
    I learned right quick how truly worthless I was to the church.
    And I’m thankful to delivered out of that particular purgatory.

    • R

      Glad you survived and have a better life now. I’m so sorry. That sounds so horrible. Many churches are way more concerned about wolves than sheep, and clueless about how traumatizing and anti-Christian that attitude is.

  7. Emily

    Thanks for reading/discussing the note regarding widowhood and church. I just turned 40 and have been widowed for 5 years now. It really is a struggle to find my place as I feel like I don’t fit with any of the married/family groups, I’m not a ‘young adult’ anymore, there’s no singles group, and my family needed a grief group that could understand the dynamics of grieving children which we got in a secular setting. now, my church really only knew me – my husband had quit church before I started taking the kids here – and I do have decent acquaintances through volunteering… But it can still be really lonely and hard.

    • Emily

      All that said – I love the work you’re doing. I sometimes feel weird listening to a podcast that focuses a fair amount on marriage but my marriage had a lot of issues that I’m still working on untangling. It’s been very helpful and healing.

  8. Laura

    Excellent podcast as always! Being single and in the church is not easy, especially when you get to a certain age or all your single friends got married. It’s like everyone who’s paired off pities the single people over 30 and they like to play matchmaker. For years, there were hardly any single age-appropriate men to be found in church. If they were single, they were either too old for me or if they were my age, they were not marriage material (immature, not wanting to commit). Well, I’ve come to a place where I just don’t care anymore about my relationship status.

    Yes, bring back vanilla sex! When I was in my 20’s and married to my ex, he wanted to experiment by watching pornos together and looking at Kama Sutra books with photographs. At the time, I was curious so I went along with it. Then, I just got grossed out seeing other people getting it on (I don’t care if they were paid actors). Some of my ex’s requests or suggestions were too weird that I will not mention them. To him, a few basic positions and making out just were not enough to satisfy him. Next time around, I prefer a basic sex life that involves emotional closeness: lots of cuddling and kissing. That may sound boring to a lot of people, but I don’t care. That’s what I like. Of course, as we grow closer in the marriage and become more comfortable with each other, then I will probably be open to new things.

    A big pet peeve I have when getting to know men is that they want to know what I like sexually. For crying out loud, we have not really dated and I just think asking that is inappropriate. Since I have been celibate for almost 21 years, I would not know anymore.

    • Tim

      Question for most of the commenters above: what are the key things a church made up of mostly couples/families should do to make sure it’s also a welcoming place for single adults?

      • Learning to be beloved

        The message to not be alone with the opposite sex contributes to the fear of engaging in conversation/relationship with these “untouchables” which are not easily controlled (as Boone described it). This type of social control and constant comparison with the in-group and measuring up to the rules puts a lot of artificial boundaries and relationships and thwarts true connection. Unfortunately, most of my church experience has been tainted by these rules. I’ve been able to connect with a few, but my husband’s/father’s deportment has always left my an outsider.

      • Laura

        All sermons should not revolve around marriage and family. Pastors should include everyone.

        • Tim

          Oh wow. No offence, but i don’t think I want to go to your churches either!

      • R

        Pray for how to show agape love with pure motives to them, as unique individuals. Make an effort to gently and politely greet them. Ask them gentle and polite questions if they seem interested in conversation, about their career or what they sense their spiritual gifts might be. Maybe set up a prayer-partner program where people can meet up briefly before or after the service, to exchange one short request and pray together briefly. Lots of times, single people are exhausted and short on time from maintaining an apartment and adult life and career on their own, so maybe not a bunch of pressure to come to things other than once a week. Small free booklets (with a suggested donation box) written by Christian counselors about problems of modern life were a huge help to me from a certain church when I was single, as were their Celebrate Recovery meetings. Maybe eventually ask them if they like game nights or Saturday morning breakfast get-togethers or what might be a good fellowship idea for their preferences and schedule. Thanks for asking and I hope this gives you ideas for your particular situation.

        • Tim

          Thanks R!

    • Andrea

      I might have a solution, based on some direct and some indirect experience myself, regarding men who ask bluntly what you like sexually before they’ve even properly dated you. It sure does appear creepy, but it also often comes from a good place, it seems to be a newer phenomenon and spurred on by the #metoo movement, where many good men out there are re-evaluating their own approach to women and realizing for the first time just how entitled they’ve been.

      So the next time someone asks you, give him the benefit of the doubt that he actually means it (he’s read about coercion, the orgasm gap, etc. and he just doesn’t want to be one of THOSE guys) and tell him the exact same thing you wrote above. That you had a coercive ex and are healing from this, that your sexual preference is to take it really slow, with lost of kissing and cuddling, that your sexual preference, in fact, is vanilla. This will send the kinksters running, while the nice, safe, thoughtful guys who like the same thing will respond positively to your answer. How they respond to your actual truthful answer to their somewhat impertinent question will tell you everything you need to know about them. Think of it as your first red flag test. The red flag is not that he wants to know what you like sexually, but how he responds when you tell him.

      • Laura


        Good advice: The red flag is not that he wants to know what you like sexually, but how he responds when you tell him.

        Of course, I will take each individual as they come. Thankfully, I just started seeing someone who wants to save sex for marriage and he hasn’t asked me any weird sex questions.

  9. Tim

    Side note: maybe this is mentioned in the podcast (haven’t listened yet), but it blows my mind that any of this stuff people are describing can happen when the Bible literally says it’s good to remain unmarried, and the two most important people in the NT (arguably) were both single. Imagine the mental gymnastics required to get from there to the idea that singleness is somehow a deficient state for adult Christians! It’s almost as hard to fathom as Christian anti-Semitism.

    • R

      Lots of church attendees are there for the social life or the music or the food, not for the Bible or the Jesus about whom it tells. And they are more careful to keep up their act around people that seem more powerful, like men who have a certain level of success in the worldly sense.

  10. Angharad

    Our church has recently done a ‘Single Friendly Church Audit’ where we rated various aspects of our church depending on how single-friendly it was. For example, the wording on the church website, social media pages and notice sheets (e.g. do we talk about a ‘family service’ or an ‘all age service’?), the range of activities, the leadership team and speakers rota (e.g. do we only have married men in these roles?) and the number of singles v marrieds in our church. For this purpose, single includes never married, separated, widowed, divorced AND ‘church single’ (those who are in a relationship but whose partner does not attend church). We also had one-to-one conversations with as many of the singles as possible to find out how the church can best support them. My husband and I married for the first time later in life, so we’ve had a lot of experience of being marginalised in churches and are passionate about making sure that we don’t do the same to others now. I’d recommend the process to anyone involved in church leadership – and even if you’re not, maybe thinking through some of these issues can help you see where your church is lacking and help you change it from the ground upwards.

    • Tim

      That’s such a great idea!

  11. Lisa

    Great episode. If bare standards are not being met, you are not allowed to talk about preferences.

  12. Ashley Reid

    Hello Sheila and the Bare Marriage Team,
    I first listened to this episode of your podcast about three months ago and I have been binging it ever since. I literally stood in my kitchen while listening to this episode and pumped my fist in the air because I was so excited about your content! I love your content and I love everything you are sharing. I have so many thoughts and I’ll probably comment more in the future when specifics come up. I mainly just want to say thank you first and foremost for pointing people back to the Lord. As I was listening to your podcast, I realized that I needed to be spending more time intentionally studying the Bible and listening to it, which I have done and found so very rewarding. Second, I am so grateful for your desire to bring back a symmetrical power balance and teamwork mindset to marriages. I am 27 and just got married to my incredible godly and gorgeous husband a year – and – a – half ago. He and I both came from healthy families that are very different in how they operate, but both sets of parents strive to follow Jesus. Because of this, we’ve come into marriage with so many good tools. I see other couples, though, who either teach the material you are refuting or are trying to reorient after being taught that, and it’s so hard to watch their struggles. Thank you for the work that you do. Third, your podcast is so eye opening to what is going on in other Christian communities. Nearly every episode I stop in my tracks and say out loud, “They think WHAT???” It’s really helped me understand more of what is actively being taught in the church at large and while that’s been saddening and sometimes downright infuriating, it has helped peel off my own blinders which is a good thing. Finally, I wanted to throw a couple comments out there. I went back to the beginning of your podcast and have been listening to it from the start, so all my thoughts and questions and comments have about a three to four year time lag. 😛 However, I do have a thought and a question that is hopefully still pertinent. I loved your content about picking lingerie and underwear that is comfortable and just feels good and isn’t overly complicated. I wanted to mention that Montelle Intimates is an amazing company that is very well priced with a super wide range of products, from the super slinky to nice pajamas to chemises and robes. They’re entirely online and so far I have had perfect luck with their products fitting. I don’t know if this would be worth mentioning on the blog or the podcast, but on the offchance I thought I would mention it because I have utterly fallen in love with buying lacy items for the bedroom and everyday use and I want to pass this on to every other married woman because it’s just so dang fun. 🙂 One other comment I wanted to make was about singleness. You mentioned early on in your podcast about getting out there if you are single so that you are dateable (even down to knowing how to carry on a conversation with a guy) and that even if you stay single, you will be single with lots of friends which is a great thing. I do agree with all of that. However, I wanted to add a caveat to that. I was single until I was 25 when I met my husband. I had had one other relationship in my early twenties that ended and I was single for almost three years between the two relationships. I was also single all the way til my freshman year of college when I started dating my first boyfriend. As someone who was single for a decent length of time (I know that many are single much longer than I was) I think it is worth acknowledging and commending the difficulty that comes with saving sex and other forms of physical intimacy for marriage. The drive is there, the passion is there, and having no one to share that with (or even to just snuggle with) is some days just plain maddening. I didn’t realize until after I got married just how great a sacrifice it is (that is totally totally worth it!!!) and has definitely made me have way more compassion on those who choose to wait (whether they have had sex before or not). I know you talk about how you and your daughters all got married pretty young (which is super cool!) and that this is a little out of your experience, so I thought I would toss that perspective into the mix.
    I do also have a question, which I know you get a lot. Is there a post or an episode where you decode female oral sex? I am open to trying it with my husband but at the same time I am also slightly grossed out. I wonder if maybe we’re both just unclear on what exactly oral sex for me would look like. I am wondering if there are specific hygiene procedures that go with it beyond basic cleanliness. Thanks so much for all you do!


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